Restore the Joy of Your Salvation: Psalm 51 (part 13)

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation;

and with an honorable Spirit you shall uphold me.”

(Psalm 51:14 {Psalm 51:12 in English Bibles})


So often when we read this verse, or hear this verse cited by people in the wider church community, it is cited in a way that is almost totally centered on man.  They place all of the emphasis on the joy that they seek, and while looking for joy in the salvation that God has granted is not a bad thing—indeed, it is a wonderful thing—it is not the focus of this verse.  The entire focus of this verse is on God and upon God’s work.  David is reflecting on the misery that he has endured as a result of his sin and pleads with God that God would restore to him the joy he takes not just in his personal salvation, but in God’s redemptive work.  David does not say restore to me the joy of “my salvation” as Habakkuk does (Habakkuk 3:18), but he says, “your salvation,” reflecting on the redemptive work of God. 

I wonder, do we praise God enough for all of the giants of the faith that He has raised up before us that have guided and marked a way for us in this life.  Do we praise God for King David, who has given us such wonderful psalms?  Do we praise him for the Apostle Paul, who has given us so much of our New Testament?  How about some of the faithful early church fathers like Irenaeus and Augustine?  Names like Calvin, Knox, Luther, Zwingli, Owen, Ryle, and Hodge fill our libraries and have shaped the way we understand our scriptures.  How much light has been given to us by the likes of Matthew Henry?  What about the call to evangelism and holy living that came from the likes of George Whitefield and John Wesley?   The names of Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, and Fanny Crosby have become synonymous with hymns of praise.  What of missionaries like David Brainerd and William Carey?  Oh, beloved, we could go on and on with the role call of men and women of faith who have gone before us and given us so many riches from their insights into God’s word, but what about those countless, nameless Christians who have set an example for us in their simple daily faith?  What about those Sunday School teachers who have planted seeds of truth in our heart?  What about faithful preachers who opened up God’s word to us week in and week out?  What about the dear saints who have upheld us in prayer through the years?  What about the believer with the servant’s heart who quietly gives and gives so that the church may be about its work.  Oh, beloved, how we do not thank God nearly enough for the work of his salvation!  How our lives would be darker and duller without so many wonderful testimonies of faith!  How sad it is that we tend to look only to ourselves and neglect the shoulders of those upon whom we stand.

Now the question that is posed, depending on the translation that is used, is whether this spirit that is mentioned is the Spirit of God or the spirit of David.  Most of our modern English translations imply that David is asking to be upheld in his own spirit (ESV, NASB, NIV, RSV), and the King James Version seems to stand on its own in clearly attributing this to the Holy Spirit.  As we look at the context of the passage, what we find is that this passage comes on the heels of a plea to God that His Holy Spirit would not be removed from David’s presence.  Now, in this verse, the prayer seems to intensify, and the plea becomes one that not only includes fellowship but being upheld as well.  In addition, the verse that follows is basically a response to God’s restorative work.  David says that in the wake of God’s provision for him, he will teach sinners the ways of God so that they might turn back to the path that leads to salvation—how might that be done unless you are upheld by the Holy Spirit?

Loved ones, the language of joy is fairly strong within this verse and it is found throughout the psalms—the words “joy” or “rejoice” occur more than 80 times in the psalms alone.  So often we get so caught up in sin that we neglect the joy that comes with being redeemed in Christ.  Beloved, rejoice!  Rejoice for though you were dead in your sins and trespasses, Christ loved you enough to call you to himself and to bear the penalty for your sins!  Beloved, you were the sons and daughters of paupers and now, in Christ, you have inherited paradise!  You are promised perfect fellowship with God, and in the mean time, Christ dwelling in you through his Holy Spirit and making continual intercession on your behalf before the Father.  Loved ones, there is much to rejoice over, so why do we so often wear such sour faces when we come to church?  Rejoice, beloved, rejoice—for our Savior reigns!

Hail, the Lord of earth and heaven!  Alleluia!

Praise to thee by both be given; Alleluia!

Thee we greet triumphant now; Alleluia!

Hail the Resurrection, thou!  Alleluia!

-Charles Wesley


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